Our 2018 was filled with a few short RV trips, Daytona 500, parades, festivals, Universal Studios Orlando, gardening, Georgia Bulldogs, wildlife, beaches, mountains, and lots of fun!
These days we are taking shorter RV trips and staying close to our home state of Georgia. It’s no wonder that this year our top three parks are either in Georgia or Florida. All three campgrounds are parks we have returned to numerous times during the years.
Number 3 – Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs, FL
We’ve been returning to this park over and over since we first discovered it in 2009. This year we camped here twice. Spring flowers were blooming in late February and the Festival of Lights were the highlight of our December stay.
All of the sites are large with water and electric hookups, a fire ring and picnic table. The bells from the carillon tower can be heard all through the campground.
Located on the Suwannee River, the park has a museum honoring Stephen Foster, hiking and biking trails (currently closed for maintenance), a gift shop and craft village with local artisans. Just outside the park is the historic Spring House and the town of White Springs.
There’s more about our latest stay at Festival of Lights and the Suwannee River
Number 2 – Pine Lake RV Campground in Bishop, GA
Located less than 15 miles from Athens and the University of Georgia, this private park is well maintained with large sites, sparkling clean bath houses, full hookups, and fantastic staff.
Whether you stay here to attend a Georgia Bulldogs football game, to visit the University of Georgia or are just passing through, this quiet campground can’t be beat.
Read more about our latest stay at A favorite campground and Georgia Bulldogs Football
Number 1 – Silver Springs State Park in Silver Springs, FL
By far one of our favorite Florida state parks, we have returned to Silver Springs State Park a number of times since we first discovered it in 2009. The sites are all very large with fire rings, picnic tables, water and electric hookups. A few of the sites have been upgraded to full hookup. The bath houses are clean and each one has a washer and dryer.
Located close to the three campground loops are hiking and biking trails, an educational center, and observation decks on the Silver River. Just up the road at the Silver Springs Historic Entrance are the famous Glass Bottom Boat Tours, canoe and kayak launch and rental, more walking trails, a gift shop and snack bar.
Many birds and other wildlife can be seen in the park. Watch out for the monkeys!
There’s more about this year’s visit at Historic Silver Springs
I love viewing Christmas Lights and one of my favorite displays is at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in White Springs, Florida. We first stumbled upon the festival a few years ago when we stayed at the campground on our way south. This December we met friends there for a few days.
All the buildings were decorated for the holidays. Christmas music from the Carillon tower could be heard all around the park several times a day.
During the days we enjoyed exploring in and around the park. The weather was chilly and the Suwannee River was high.
We were able to explore the historic Spring House on the Suwannee River early in the week before the river level became too high to reach it.
The Suwannee River level kept rising all week. By the end of the week the Spring House was surrounded by water. The photos below illustrate just how high he river rose. On the left is the way it looked when we were there in February earlier this year, and on the right is the way it looked at the end of our stay in December.
One day we enjoyed a picnic under the oak trees after walking along a trail beside the river in Big Shoals State Park. The river was swift and so high we couldn’t see the shoals.
One afternoon we stopped at the Carillon Tower to hear Jan play her Mountain Dulcimer and play the Steinway Grand Piano that was once owned by Andrew Carnegie. I’ve never heard a piano that sounded so beautiful.
White Springs was once a thriving tourist destination with several hotels. A fire in 1911 destroyed all the hotels except for the Telford which is still standing. We took a walking tour of downtown White Springs and enjoyed seeing the historic buildings.
At night, the park came to life with the Christmas light displays.
We had a great week hanging out with our friends and exploring the park and White Springs.
For the first time in many years we took a vacation without our RV. Instead, motels and a condo were our home for the week.
We decided to break up our trip to Orlando and spend a night near a beach to take a drive along A1A. Flagler Beach sounded like a perfect place. It’s a small beach town on the Atlantic Ocean that still has that old Florida feeling. Driving down A1A the Atlantic Ocean is on one side of the road and beach houses and locally owned restaurants are on the other. Heaven! After a walk on the fishing pier we ate fish sandwiches with an ocean view at the Funky Pelican next to the pier.
Our home for the rest of the week was a condo in a resort in Lake Buena Vista. We enjoyed the screened porch with a view of the fountain and pond.
We had the condo to ourselves for the first three nights. We celebrated my birthday at Bongo’s, a Cuban restaurant at Disney Springs.
On Wednesday we picked up our two oldest grandchildren at the airport. After a long travel day they enjoyed a dip in one of the pools.
Going to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter attractions was at the top of their wish list so the next morning we got up early to be at the park as soon as it opened.
Universal is made up of two separate theme parks with Harry Potter attractions in both parks. We purchased the park hopper tickets so we could ride the Hogwarts Express train between the parks. The train ride was fun and when we disembarked we were in The Islands of Adventure Park in Hogsmeade. We cooled off with a Butter Beer before riding any more rides.
The kids loved the two Harry Potter thrill rides. Henry liked the Escape from Gringotts. Our 14 year old grandson said the Forbidden Journey was his favorite. Our granddaughter liked them both. I’m not a fan of thrill rides. The train was more my style.
After our epic day at Universal we took it easy the next day. While it rained all afternoon we played some games and enjoyed hanging out with our grandkids.
One evening the kids enjoyed the pool while I enjoyed the evening sky.
On our last day we put on our bathing suits and went to Blizzard Beach, one of the Disney water parks. We were able to enjoy a few rides before the afternoon thunderstorm came through. Just as predicted, at 1:00 the lightening was so close they closed all the rides.
One thing that is almost guaranteed if you travel to Orlando in late June is the daily thunderstorms. The only day we didn’t get rained on was the day we went to Universal. How lucky was that?
What a great week making memories with our two oldest grandkids!
It’s been two years since our last visit to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. During that stay we did a lot of exploring around the park, the town of White Springs, and nearby Big Shoals State Park. I posted about those adventures at Way Down upon the Suwannee River.
We returned to the park this February. The carillon tower is a focal point in the park and one of my favorite things about being there is hearing the the bells from the carillon chime on the quarter hour and hearing Stephen Foster’s music throughout the day. Unfortunately, the carillon wasn’t working this year.
We didn’t visit the museum on this trip but there are interesting exhibits about Stephen Foster and his many songs.
Even though it was only February there were some beautiful spring blooms. Gotta love Florida!
One day we took a drive to Suwanee River State Park near Live Oak to check it out. High on the banks above the Suwanee River, we enjoyed a walk on an easy trail to the confluence of the Suwanee and Withlacoochee Rivers. Beside the trail were relics from riverboats that once traveled up and down the river.
We enjoyed wonderful views from an overlook at the confluence of the two rivers.
After our walk we sat on a wooden swing overlooking the Suwanee River enjoying a picnic lunch. Doesn’t get much better than that.